Media Monday: TV & Books

Some more of the TV I've watched so far this year:

Sherlock s3
I liked, in the end, the interconnectedness of the season, but only because without the final episode, it would have seemed like a season wasted. Early on it was feeling to me like the fun episodes you would put amid a long season, to break up the episodes with good cases. I began to think (and still might) that the show has become, instead of what it used to be, what the internet thinks it is.

Attack on Titan s1
Recommended from various angles, I watched this whole anime series on Netflix. I was really expecting it to be in space for some reason. The mobility devices are great. My complaints though: the thing that I was told was the basic premise of the show isn't actually established until almost halfway through, so boo to that reviewer for blowing a fun surprise. And second, and I'll say this carefully so as not to do the same thing to you, there was something very early in the show that I thought sure was going to happen, and then much later they announced it was going to happen, and now I'm wondering if I have to watch a whole second or third season before it actually does happen.

The Eric Andre Show s1
This show wasn't for me. I remember that there were a couple bits I liked, but I don't recall what they were anymore. Hannibal Buress seems to be getting very gently typecast, but maybe this show is the first one where he plays the role of "the writers' awareness."

And hey, let's talk books!

Screenwriting 101 by FilmCritHulk
Very interesting book with ideas I'd like to try to put into practice sometime. As an iBook, it uses its own medium badly.

In the Belly of the Fail Whale by someone or another.
Sometimes you're in a place and you read or watch something just because it's there or it's on. But that doesn't mean it's good, and this wasn't. Bleh. It's the story of a guy who signs up for twitter, and how he wrote a book about signing up for twitter while working in the names of his followers into cringeworthy asides so they would buy a book that has their name in it.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
I guess I'm a little wary because he's having a popularity explosion right now, but I've been avidly consuming his YouTube shows since sometime last year and decided to try one of his novels. And I liked it! Like an alarming number of books I've read in the past few years it takes place in and around a boarding school, and as in all of them, the first half is more fun than the second half. I think all my vlog consumption clued me into some pretty oblique references, which made me feel clever. I was just happy to go through a window into an impossible sounding but convincing world, to see what bits of a YA novel connect with me today and what bits don't.

#2,001: Veronica Mars

Hey, I cracked 2000 movies watched! Give or take, of course, the huge margins of error on both sides.

The A-Team - ★☆☆☆☆
I can't believe how boring this was. Looney Tunes has higher stakes. They even jammed a terrible 'lost his powers' subplot that gets resolved by turning to Ghandi as an inspiration to kill a bunch of people in with the other incomprehensible nonsense.

Small Time Crooks - ★★★☆☆
Fun, jokey, not much of a heist movie exactly. I was surprised to find it's as recent as it is.

Rififi - ★★★★★
Just great. I hadn't seen it in a while and I think it blurred together with The Friends of Eddie Coyle and maybe Topkapi for me, so it seemed fresh. It may be a little bit of a vanilla story and execution, but that's okay when you're first. It holds up as a solid, exciting, and precise-like-clockwork film.

Le Cercle Rouge - ★★★½☆
I was much more into the first half of this movie in which the team is assembled than the second half containing the heist. It's not a bad heist, necessarily, unless you've -just- watched Rififi.

Probably my biggest criticism though: not enough red circles!

Two lightly spoilery items I enjoyed:
1) How the crooks step over the first electric eye, but to get past the second wall of them, they just do it somehow while we're cut away to the other characters.
2) How they steal all the jewels off their displays, but when they go to the fence it's all nicely laid out on velvet backings and stuff. Must have been a nice afternoon craft project.

Veronica Mars - ★★★☆☆
As a viewer who has never seen the TV series, I still found this to be fun and fairly accessible. There were certainly some lines that I could pick out as references I wasn't getting, but at the same time I probably didn't actually benefit from the 'previously on' type opening sequence. I probably would have cut out the gang stuff and the line by Ken Marino that causes a tiny plot hole.

In the pantheon of movies that continue TV series instead of rebooting them though: pretty good! And better at standing on its own than a lot of those. Maybe a rung below Serenity, and while I really liked Homicide: The Movie, that's probably only because I watched seven seasons of the show first.

#1,996: The Lego Movie

All movies, all Monday!

Monster - ★★☆☆☆
I had a lot of trouble connecting to this movie. Probably because it's tough to sympathize with an unrepentant crazy murderer? It's like a sadder Citizen Ruth.

Hotel Rwanda - ★★★☆☆
An interesting story, well told, that carries the unmistakable look of an early 90's live-action Disney movie. It's a weirdly distracting look for such a serious topic, and the content of the movie makes it seem weird to criticize this part, but here we are.

Two re-watches:

RoboCop - ★★★★☆
I'm hesitant to see the new one, but (a tv-edit) of this was one of my favorite movies as a kid. Still a delight. I was struck by the efficiency of it today. It really clips along. Something to strive for in a movie these days.

Rope - ★★★★☆ I think this is a fun movie. The continuous take thing felt a little clunkier than I remember though. The camera of the time was so huge - today it would be so much easier to produce. And starring Jason Sudeikis. With maybe Tom Hanks as Jimmy Stewart.

And finally:

The LEGO Movie - ★★★☆☆
I've been wondering what the message of this movie is. It seems like the path to success was to do all the 'wrong' things. Maybe it's that everyone everywhere should become their enemies? Also, even though you're making fun of the hero's journey stuff, that doesn't mean you're not still doing it.

I read some thoughts about the movie on the internet, and all I learned is that I don't really like how much the internet churns every new thing into a bland paste each week.

In college, I had a double-decker couch. It worked out fine.

Media Monday: Dragon Warrior & True Detective

GBA - Dragon Warrior I - ★★★☆☆
This title has a fixture in my childhood. I think I mainly watched my dad play, but maybe started and restarted games of my own. We played forever. Ridmular (sic) was so far away. We did beat it though, on the original NES. This was the GBC version, played on my phone, and I beat it in approximately 48 hours. Not 48 hours of play, but from the time I started. I had all the best gear, and I paced up in down in the Dragon Lord's front hallway to boost up two levels to 21 in order to take him out. Sure, I checked a world map online, but the original game came with a printed one. And Nintendo Power was full of 'em. My first issue even had a pull-out mini-book full of Dragon Warrior stuff… I can only assume they really changed the balance around on the remake. Or maybe I've got a lot of questions for my dad…

PS3 - Remember Me - ★★☆☆☆
Good thing: This was part of my new PS+ subscription! Bad thing: The game. It was secretly(?) a God of War clone. They really sold this on the memory remixing, and there's so little of that here. Most of the playing in memories you do is in the vein of the Mario help system: watch a ghost do something, then do that thing. It got a little better after the tutorial levels, but that's about when the reusing levels starts. Even a remix part got recycled. Also, It contains the line, "you must run down riddlehead and steal the access protocols for the conception cube. He's headed for the metal security post on the 103rd floor." but that's not really a spoiler, because it doesn't mean anything.

GBA - Dragon Warrior II - ★★★☆☆
I was listening to some of the Indoor Kids podcast while I played this, and someone talked about how sometimes you play games to beat them and other times just to see them. I was in DWI to beat it, but I think DWII just to see it all. I brazenly turned to online help with entering the final area, when I saw no villager that happened to know the answer, I used saves to win the lotto and it didn't bother me at all. I came to see, and I did. The beginning of part 3 seems an overwhelming pile of choices, so I might not come back to the series right away. 3/5

True Detective
I liked this show. I enjoyed the mythos references. I was satisfied with the conclusion and I'm excited that the next season isn't going to be a direct sequel and I liked all that investigating. I also ended up reading a lot about it online as it was happening, and mostly it made me wish the internet wasn't quite so full of public contemplation. It's not the (inconsequential) spoilers, it's that not one of those articles enhanced my enjoyment of the show, enriched my thoughts or discussions about the show, or were even simply entertaining in their own right. They don't even really help the authors, who - yes - got me to click, but also now make me want to unsubscribe from their websites so that I don't make the same mistake of wasting my time on inane commentary the next time around.

2014 Gaming: Broken Age, Threes, and more

More of a Media Monday today, let's talk about a few of the videogames I've finished so far this year.

PC - Broken Age (act 1) - ★★★★☆
The art and the dialogue are terrific. I had some real gripes with the puzzle-y parts early on, when I had the right idea for something on Vella's side and wasn't allowed to do it until I collected the hints first, and Shay has a super convenient object for no discernible reason, but I got on board a little more when the worlds opened up. Felt clever about having a prediction re: the act break.

PC - Cook Serve Delicious! - ★★★★☆
A steam sale purchase. I had a good time with this, collected platinum star rating, and most of the achievements except, like, serve 15,000 meals, since the whole story section only took about 7,500. Tips: You can serve a cooked item while preparing something else, and nobody ever complains when you give them extra ice cream.

PS3 - Sound Shapes - ★★☆☆☆
I think I grabbed this two Christmases ago, just finished it up now to make room for new downloads since I've joined PS+. It's an okay little platformer and all, but kind of a chore to play. I finished the campaign, but I don't care about trophies enough to work on the challenge levels, and the interface for the beat-maker thing looks like a terrible way to spend an evening. Replicating drum machine beats might be more fun in an iOS game.

iOS - Threes - ★★★★☆
I didn't find this quite as addictive as the popular opinion. It's nice to sit and fold numbers while watching TV, so i'll still play from time to time, but right now I have the highest score of anyone I know, 27,783, and whenever I have the best score in one of these things, that releases the hooks. I don't have to play it again until it turns out someone has beaten me.

#1,993: All Hail the King

Movie Monday!

Kick-Ass 2 - ★☆☆☆☆
It's easy to see how the producers tried to take a look at the first one to see what people liked about it, and expand on those elements. This movie is jam-packed with terrible scenes that prove they got the what, but not the why. Unencumbered by any hint of fun or character development, all that's left is a snoozy, repetitive plot.

Her - ★★★½☆☆
The promotional stuff I'd seen for this really looked awful. So, I liked it more than I expected. My favorite things were mostly the implied future. Future technology, future elevator decorating techniques, future public transit in LA. Glad that they eventually addressed questions that the beginning prompted.

I guess the ending was inevitable, but a little unsatisfying. I'm not sure what I would have liked better though. Maybe if Theo made a choice?

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay - ★★★☆☆
What can you do? If it's a movie full of tricks and demos, then it should be a concert film. If it's a movie full of explanations of the man's past and methods, then it's like being told how the ice cube got on the table, and the answer to that is probably going to be, as Jonathan Creek says, "mind-numbingly banal."

This was interesting, but not TOO interesting...

Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King - ★★★½☆
We had a little marathon of all the MCU shorts, mostly punctuated by wondering why there can't be more, and why Agents of SHIELD can't hold a candle to these.

In particular, I liked how this one both undoes a little continuity damage and maybe sets us up for future flicks.

#1,989: American Hustle

More Movie Monday!

Changeling - ★★★½☆
My expectations for this were based on a trailer that I was not remembering correctly at all. I thought it was going to hinge more on whether or not she was right or crazy, and maybe that she thought the boy was an impostor, but her husband didn't. Watching the trailer now, they spell the whole thing out pretty well, so I guess I'm glad I had that wrong.

I think she'd never agree to go on a date with the guy that made her work the day the son was taken.

The Pianist - ★★★★☆ (Rewatch)
I’d forgotten a lot of this since seeing it in theaters. I remembered bits of the ending quite clearly, but not the opening optimism in the face of impending doom that I can imagine feeling myself if it were to happen today. It's easy to see how you might just assume things will work out, how hard it would be to imagine needing to flee your country.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - ★★½☆☆
I was on board with the first half of this movie. Then a switch is flipped and everything went from interesting to easy. Jack is suddenly great at everything and there's no more danger.

Seems like the theme for reboots now is 'how about this character, but with no flaws?' We'll check it out again next month with the sleek new, acrobatic and google-enabled Robocop.

American Hustle - ★★★☆☆
I don't know. Everyone's acting so hard! I'm not sure what it's trying to say. It was fun, but might have been more fun to see as just a movie, without the context of all the nominations.

It's kind of like the A Knight's Tale of 70s crime movies.

#1,985: Premium Rush

Movie Monday!

Blue Jasmine - ★★★☆☆
Kind of like Young Adult, ten or fifteen years on. I suspect this movie may have been a little funnier than it seemed.

Captain Phillips - ★★★½☆
Really wish I could have seen it without trailers and buzz and previews and everything that it got for months and months - felt like I'd already gotten the whole story in advance, but still more engrossing and generally better than I expected.

I think this was the first Greengrass movie I liked.

Don Jon - ★★☆☆☆
Don Jon is what a Kevin Smith movie would be if he had gone to a better, or maybe just more pretentious, school. Julianne Moore was good though.

Premium Rush - ★★★★☆
Mechanically, this works like Hurt Locker. Almost every scene is an exciting street chase.

It's neat how this movie could sustain so much chasing, in contrast to something like a Matrix or Bourne sequel and their boring chase set pieces. Maybe it's because it seems like a bike messenger could get hurt.